Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

Sometimes it can be mighty hard to be biracial in the almost all white town of Moon Lake, Washington, especially when you are part of an otherwise all white family.  Which is why more than anything, Violet Diamond, 11, wishes her dad hadn't died just before she was born.  Maybe, if he hadn't been killed in that auto accident, people wouldn't look at her like she didn't belong to the family she's with - mom, a neonatal doctor, older sister Daisy and grandparents Gam and Poppy - the family that loves her very much.

Violet also knows almost nothing about her dad's African American family, so when she discovers that his mother, a well-known artist, would be having a gallery show in Seattle, she convinces her mom to take her to meet her grandmother, Roxanne Diamond.

It is very clear that Roxanne still has a lot dislike and hard feeling towards Violet's mom at that meeting in Seattle, which could have gone a bit smoother, but seeing her granddaughter for the first time did help melt Roxanne Diamond's heart a bit.  So much so, that ultimately, Violet ends up spending a week visiting her at her home in Los Angeles and meeting the rest of the the Diamond family.

But Violet is in for a rather rude awakening.  She may look like part of the Diamond family from the outside, but that doesn't mean that she isn't discussed by them privately in terms race.  She discovers this by eavesdropping on a conversation at a family gathering whether she looks half white.  Her cousin Ahmed is a little more blunt about things - like her hair, her 'white' name, and did she come to LA to learn how to be black?

Violet may be a girl in search of her whole self, but she wonders if the two sides of her family that she carries in her DNA will ever be reconciled to that.  As she says, "to white people, I'm half black.  To black people, I'm half white.  50% black + 50% white = 100% Violet!  Is that what I am, a percentage?" (pg 148)

I liked The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond for a number of reasons.  First, I found Violet a believable, realistic protagonist.  She is basically a good kid, but not totally without a few snarky, negative thoughts and definitely not above eavesdropping.  She is also a collector of words, dreams, and wishes.  I wouldn't necessarily call this a coming-of-age novel, but rather a novel of discovery, a quest of sorts to find her other cultural half in an attempt to feel whole.

I also liked that both families are educated, economically stable, well meaning and supportive.  Even Ahmed, who feels a little bent out of shape when this stranger enters his life and he no longer has Auntie Roxanne all to himself, has Violet's backs when she needs it.  Both sides of Violets family were refreshingly different, not the usual stereotypes.

But the thing I liked the most is how Brenda Woods really managed to present a real problem so accurately.  And there is a need for books that address biracial issues and identity.  Also, this is a story that really hit home for me.  I have a biracial niece who has gone through some of the same things that Violet has also experienced.  And often those cutting remarks revolved around her complexion and her hair in much the same way that Violet experienced them.  In fact, as soon as I finish this review, I am going to send her my copy of The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond.  She's already told me she can't wait to read it.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was originally purchased for my personal library, but now, it is being passed along.


  1. As an adoption coach, I'm always delighted to find a book with a non-Caucasian protagonist. As a believer that #weneedmorediversebooks, I'm using my buying power to help drive that result.Just ordered my copy. Thanks

  2. oh i agree.. it really looks like a very real issue. Its very refreshing to see these kind of books in the children's literature. Thanks for sharing an excellent review Alex.
    -Reshama @ Stackingbooks

  3. I believe this is my first visit to your site. Looks like a lot of information and a lot of work. Loved this review. I was not aware of this book. Thanks for sharing on the Kid Lit Blog Hop.


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